How Furniture Retailer Grafunkt Is Reinventing Itself During The Coronavirus Crisis
“You can forget about retailing furniture if you are not passionate about furniture,” declares industrial designer Nathan Yong, who helms multi-brand retailer Grafunkt with co-founder Jefery Kurniadidjaja. The dynamic duo should know—they’ve been in the business for over a decade and celebrated this milestone by moving to new premises at Funan last year.
Kurniadidjaja was a frequent customer at Yong’s first boutique, Air Division; the two quickly bonded over their passion for furniture design. “We have high idealism that’s also grounded in realism,” says the designer. Adds Kurniadidjaja: “We match well as partners because we both are never satisfied with what we have.”
The 13,000sqft showroom at Funan is Grafunkt’s largest to date. Described as a “design district”, the store features an in-boutique café and spaces furnished with European names exclusive to Grafunkt, such as Ligne Roset, Treku, New Tendency and Japanese brands Conde House and Time & Style. Besides its retail arm, the company also runs a contract division that caters to hospitality and commercial projects.
The new store encapsulates the owners’ holistic approach—Grafunkt also debuted a new logo designed by local studio H55 and staff uniforms by homegrown label Vetyver. “Active collaboration is a core value of Grafunkt, and it is definitely something we want to continue working on,” says Yong.
Another passion project is Folks, a brand started by Yong to support craft heritage and design talents in the region. “Folks is about preserving good woodworking from the East and giving it an updated silhouette for modern lifestyles,” he says. Here, the co-founders reflect on their journey thus far and ponder their future plans.
How has the coronavirus crisis affected your business?
JK: We have a digital concierge system, where queries are sent in via social media and emails. Our team of product specialists will assist these customers personally with their queries and make better recommendations to them based on what they want and need.
We’re trying to duplicate the personalised shopping experience they would get in browsing in our store digitally, not only because this ensures that we are helping our customers understand the brand, but we're also serving our customers based on what they want and need. Most of our products are very customisable in terms of size, colour, material, and composition. Getting to connect with them personally allows us to make better recommendations for them.
NY: We are definitely looking at the e-commerce options available. But we want to make sure that it is done well. We want customers to be able to understand the story behind the brands and products we’re offering, so that the value of our partners and products doesn’t get diluted.
(Related: 10 Designer Furniture Retailers With Virtual Concierge Services)
What does good design mean to you?
Jefery Kurniadidjaja (JK): Good design is often mistakenly skewed towards aesthetics, when rather, it should be viewed in a holistic fashion. It involves the entire process, from generating ideas and conceptualisation to realisation and manufacturing. The need to consider all these aspects is essential to ensuring the longevity and timelessness of the product.
Nathan Yong (NY): Good design should not only convey the designer’s ideals, it should also be able to convey those of the users. Clean, simple designs are really the most sophisticated because they are able to incorporate all these elements in a straightforward and subtle manner.
(Related: Why Good Design Matters, According To DesignSingapore Council Executive Director Mark Wee)
What are the most popular styles and collections right now?
JK: Spaces are getting smaller, so the furniture styles now lean toward sleek designs. At the same time, people want to experiment. So, they like accent pieces that are subtle yet add character to otherwise neutral or muted palettes.
Popular pieces include Ligne Roset’s Prado sofa, which has detached backrests that can be used as floor cushions. The Time & Style Museum cabinet is an innovative way to store and display at the same time. Other top picks include Hay’s Palissade outdoor collection, Muuto’s Fiber family of chairs.
What’s your average workday like?
JK: I’m very lucky to have my wife working together with me (at Grafunkt). So after sending our son to school in the morning, we usually go for a jog and have breakfast together, then catch up on emails and meetings for the day; then we'll fetch our son at school before heading back to the store.
NY: (Before the circuit breaker measures started) I am usually at Cafe Grafunkt for meetings with other designers or colleagues, working on new designs and collaborations with my team. If you don’t find me at Grafunkt or my studio, I’m probably working from home with Jagger, my dog.
(Related: Home Office Ideas: See The Workspaces Of Creatives In Singapore During The Circuit Breaker Period)
The June-July 2020 issue of Tatler Homes Singapore is available with our compliments on Magzter